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Anglican Alliance welcomes faith leadership on climate change action

Posted on: June 30th, 2015 by CEP Administrator No Comments
News

Photo Credit: Anglican Alliance
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[Anglican Alliance] In a remarkable week, world church leaders have raised their voices urging decisive action on climate change.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, along with the Ecumenical Patriarch, has underlined our moral responsibility to act now both to reduce human suffering and to preserve the diversity and beauty of God’s creation for future generations.

In a joint article to the New York Times, the two leaders wrote: “As representatives of two major Christian communions, we appeal to the world’s governments to act decisively and conscientiously by signing an ambitious and hopeful agreement in Paris during COP 21 at the end of this year.”

“We hope and pray that this covenant will contain a clear and convincing long-term goal that will chart the course of de-carbonization in the coming years. Only in this way can we reduce the inequality that flows directly from climate injustice within and between countries,” they said.

Archbishop Justin Welby has also committed to fast and pray for the success of negotiations of a universal climate agreement at the UN summit in Paris in December.

Archbishop Welby joined faith leaders in signing the Lambeth Declaration, which calls on faith communities to act on the urgent need to shrink society’s carbon footprint.

The Declaration, signed by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York and other faith leaders in the UK, warns that world leaders must agree to reduce emissions to avoid average temperatures rising beyond 2⁰C, widely considered to be the threshold above which it is considered that the impacts of climate change will be most severe.

“Archbishop Justin and the other faith leaders have rightly identified the disproportionate impact that climate change is having on the poorest and most vulnerable communities in our world: this is an issue of justice,” said Anglican Alliance Co-Executive Director, the Revd Rachel Carnegie.

Landmark Papal Encyclical

The following day saw the launch of Pope Francis’s highly anticipated, landmark Encyclical, Laudato si’ (Praise be to you) on Care for our Common Home, reflecting on the extreme urgency of action on climate change, which asks the profoundest questions on “what it means to be human”.

Reflecting on humanity’s relationship with the planet, the Pope also highlights how attacks on the environment impact most gravely upon the poorest.

In his Encyclical, Pope Francis writes:  “Today we have to realize that a true ecological approach always becomes a social approach; it must integrate questions of justice in debates on the environment, so as to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.”

The Pope reflects on the teaching of St Francis, saying that the saint “shows us just how inseparable the bond is between concern for nature, justice for the poor, commitment to society, and interior peace.”

Reflecting on the Pope’s Encyclical, Rachel Carnegie said: “Pope Francis is showing inspired leadership to bring about not only radical change in lifestyle, production and consumption but also a rethinking of humanity’s relationship with our planet.”

This Encyclical is a “very substantial and compelling document not just for Roman Catholics but for the whole Church and all people who live together in our common home,” said the Church of England’s lead on the environment, Bishop of Salisbury, the Rt Revd Nicholas Holtam.

“Churches and other faith communities have a unique power to mobilise people for the common good and change attitudes and behaviours. We also need to strengthen our politicians to achieve ambitious, accountable and binding climate change agreements, nationally and internationally,” said Bishop Holtam.

“It is electrifying to see Anglicans and other faith leaders boldly coming together in the spirit of the Pope’s Encyclical to address the grave challenge of climate change,” Rachel Carnegie said.

The Archbishop of Cape Town Thabo Makgoba, Chair of the Anglican Communion Environmental Network, welcomed Pope Francis’s emphasis on “the ethical and spiritual roots of environmental problems”.

“The values of dignity and fairness are at the heart of how we respond to the crisis. How we look after the environment is at its core about how we value our fellow human beings,” Archbishop Makgoba said.

The Rt Reverend Dennis P Drainville, Bishop of Quebec, has pledged to make space for the voices of those too long silenced: indigenous peoples and women worldwide.  “We pay dearly for ignoring the depth of their connection with all life and their understanding that we are but one species upon the earth.”

Let us work together to create a “Climate of Hope,” he said.

Some 5000 campaigners and religious leaders marched in Rome on Sunday to show support for Pope Francis’s Encyclical and to send a strong message to world leaders to take action.

At the One Earth, One Human Family event, the Most Reverend Sir David Moxon, Archbishop of Canterbury’s Representative to the Holy See and Director of the Anglican Centre in Rome, underlined the need for a global response, said The Guardian.

“The challenge facing Europe and all of the industrialised and industrialising world is very important – we’re going to choke or cook unless we do something about it,” he said.

“What is most welcome about the Pope’s contribution is its timing.  We are the first generation to feel the effects of climate change and the last that can do something to stop it… It is vital that leaders respond to this by reducing carbon emissions and delivering support for vulnerable communities already suffering,” said Christine Allen, Christian Aid’s Director of Policy and Public Affairs.

Archbishop Makgoba challenged leaders at the climate talks in Paris in December to show the same inspired moral and ethical leadership.

The priority of climate change

Climate justice is a key priority for the Anglican Alliance, identified in all its regional consultations around the Communion. It also reflects the Fifth Mark of Mission, adopted by the Anglican Consultative Council in 1984: “To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation, and sustain and renew the life of the earth.”

In 2014, the Anglican Alliance supported the Anglican churches and agencies of the Pacific and Australia in successfully campaigning to have climate change included on the agenda of the G20 world leaders meeting in Brisbane.

In the lead-up to the Paris climate summit in December 2015, the Anglican Alliance has also joined forces with other faith groups in the coalition Our Voices, to bring the combined voices of faith communities to the climate talks.

Anglican Alliance Co-Executive Director, the Revd Andy Bowerman, is joining the People’s Pilgrimage to the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP21) in Paris in December.

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Anglican Communion News Service, ACNS Today’s top stories, June 30, 2015

Reconciliation about reclaiming indigenous identity – Bishop Mark MacDonald

Posted on: June 24th, 2015 by CEP Administrator No Comments
News

 

The Rt Revd Mark MacDonald
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By Susan Kim for the World Council of Churches

We are entering an era in which the public has a broader awareness of the rights of indigenous peoples, said Bishop Mark MacDonald, WCC president for North America and the National Indigenous Bishop of the Anglican Church of Canada.

“I especially see, during the past seven years, the indigenous peoples in Canada and really all the world have been moving toward self-determination and the actualization of the principal values of their elders,” he said.

What’s vital, at this point, he said, is a collective public sense that indigenous peoples must move ahead with their self-determination. “I would say that this is the most important aspect: that people will be strong in this no matter what. I think that’s really critical.”

Reflecting on his reading of Roman Catholic theologian Robert Schreiter, who has studied and advocated for reconciliation worldwide, MacDonald said reconciliation is ultimately about reclaiming indigenous identity. “Reconciliation doesn’t happen when an oppressor decides to be nice. Reconciliation begins when an oppressed people reclaim their humanity,” MacDonald said.

Climate change tied to indigenous identity

The identity of an indigenous person is often tied to the land, MacDonald continued. “In today’s world, there is an assault on the land, and on our relationship with the land and with the creatures involved. This assault is experienced in a very painful way by indigenous people.”

Many people regard with sadness the historical events during which indigenous peoples were dispossessed of their land. But climate change has resulted in a continuous, present-day dispossession of land, pointed out MacDonald. “What we see now with issues of climate injustice is an ongoing acceleration of dispossession that is threatening in so many ways to indigenous peoples — threatening to their food security and their life security. The people least responsible are most affected.”

During an Interfaith Summit on Climate Change in September 2014 in New York, 30 leaders from nine different faith traditions stood together as one, strengthening a unified call for international political leaders to respond effectively to the climate change challenge. “So many of these speakers talked about climate injustice, about it being integral to the wellness of indigenous peoples. There is no good future for our planet that doesn’t involve indigenous peoples,” said MacDonald.

While MacDonald values what he terms his “western” education, the things he has learned from his elders have been invaluable in terms of his own indigenous identity. “In terms of understanding the world I live in, and who I am in that world, the elders have been most critical,” he said.

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Anglican Communion News Service, ACNS Today’s top stories, June 24, 2015

Pastoral resource on assisted suicide to be released in November

Posted on: June 24th, 2015 by CEP Administrator No Comments
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By Anglican Journal staff

The Anglican Church of Canada’s task force on physician-assisted suicide had its first in-person meeting in Toronto earlier this month. Photo: Shutterstock


This fall, the Anglican Church of Canada’s task force on physician-assisted suicide will release a new pastoral resource. The material is designed to provide spiritual and other guidance for clergy and lay leaders dealing with the realities of the Supreme Court of Canada’s February ruling that will legalize physician-assisted suicide in 2016.

After a winter of research and conference calling, the diverse eight-member task force (which includes one Lutheran) met at General Synod offices in Toronto on June 1 and 2.  It plans to complete a first draft by Sept. 1 and have the final document ready for Council of General Synod in November.

“We’re not looking at this point to come out with a document that says the Supreme Court was right or wrong,” says the Rev. Canon Eric Beresford, the group’s chair and theologian-in-residence at Trinity Anglican Church in Aurora, Ont., adding, however, that many Anglicans would like the group to do that.

An ethicist from the diocese of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, Beresford served as an editor for the church’s 1998 study document Care in Dying: A Consideration of the Practices of Euthanasia and Physician Assisted Suicide.

“We made a pitch for a certain perspective in 1998,” he says, referring to Care in Dying. “We don’t see much [reason] to simply revisit that attempt to [influence] public policy because public policy has now very substantially moved and is not going to back any time soon.”

The real question now is what it means to witness as Anglicans in the midst of this altered ethical situation. “We are in a new context where people have a new legal choice. So it’s not going to be a revision of 1998,” says task force member the Rev. Dr. Eileen Scully, the church’s director of faith, worship and ministry. “We’re picking up where Care in Dying leaves off to create a resource that will be pastorally useful to clergy and leaders who are actually accompanying people in palliation.”

That will require addressing this complex issue from several angles: theological, ethical, medical and pastoral, something the professionally diverse task force is well equipped to do. “How do we walk with people dying or in severe pain and their families? What is the role of the pastor and the church in accompanying people into death?” Scully says. She adds that we are currently waiting in a middle place for appropriate federal and provincial legislation and health-care profession regulations to be put in place for next year as per the Carter v Canada ruling of Feb 2, 2015.

In this decision, the Supreme Court of Canada unanimously struck down a Criminal Code provision against physician-assisted suicide and gave mentally competent Canadian adults suffering intolerably and enduringly the right to a doctor’s help in dying. Suspending its ruling for 12 months, it gave federal and provincial governments and health-care organization regulators enough time to amend their laws and regulations by Feb. 2, 2016.

Beresford notes that there is broad diversity of views on the matter in the task force, which includes a physician, a retired nursing professor, a lawyer, a parish priest and a chaplaincy coordinator deeply experienced in hospital and hospice pastoral care. “But whatever our view, we are going to be facing the reality of people needing pastoral care in the middle of difficult situations, and just saying ‘No, no, you shouldn’t, it’s wicked’ isn’t going to be effective pastoral care,” he said.

Because the issue is such a complex one, the Anglican response will have to be multifaceted and capable of addressing omissions in the Supreme Court ruling, Beresford added. “When it talks about avoiding coercion and requiring consent. What exactly do those things mean? And a lot of decisions are now made with competent minors as if they were adults. Are they included in this?” Scully added that the task force will definitely be tackling gaps such as the lack of definition of adulthood and guidelines for assessing coercion.

Another potential loophole is that unlike jurisdictions such as Oregon, The Netherlands, Switzerland and Belgium, the Canadian decision doesn’t require the patient to be irreversibly in the process of dying, but rather in irremediable suffering.  “Many of us recognize that there’s going to be some pressure in the future to say, ‘Well if it is unconstitutional to prevent someone who is a competent adult but who is facing unbearable pain of suffering from having that alleviated by being assisted in their dying, why do other groups who don’t pass the competency test have to be forced to face pain and suffering indefinitely?” Beresford said.

The task force will also assess the state of palliation and hospice in Canada and consider concrete actions the church could take to improve palliative care, once proposed as an alternative to assisted death. “At the time of Care in Dying, we had hoped for better palliation,” said Scully, “but 20 years later, not much progress has been made in most places.”

According to Beresford, the Supreme Court, in fact, dismissed the palliative alternative early on because the chief witness admitted that palliative care often didn’t fulfill patients’ needs. “Palliative care should be primarily patient-centred. It is about the patient’s being able to make effective and informed decisions about how the pain and discomfort of their dying process are managed, and that’s unfortunately not what’s happening,” he said.

That fact is a major challenge to the church, Beresford added, noting that the U.K.’s hospice program is a child of the church. “If we really believe that palliative care would give people more humane choices, then we need to be at the front of not just advocating for it but also of working to raise and provide resources in co-operation with the wider community.”

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Anglican Journal News, June 24, 2015

Niagara Anglicans protest cuts to refugee health care

Posted on: June 22nd, 2015 by CEP Administrator No Comments
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The Rev. Bill Mous, director of justice, community, and global ministries for the diocese of Niagara, addresses a gathering for the National Day of Action protesting cuts to refugee health care. Photo: André Forget


Cries of “care not cuts!” echoed down Hamilton’s King St. West as a group of protestors marched around Jackson Square as part of the fourth National Day of Action to protest cuts made to refugee health care in 2012.

The protestors were a diverse group, including nurses, doctors, medical students and other health-care professionals as well as steelworkers’ union activists, anti-poverty activists and a sizable contingent of Anglicans from the diocese of Niagara.

“[We] need to give care—everyone deserves that right,” said Alicia Archbell, Niagara’s diocesan youth ambassador to the Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund, the Anglican Church of Canada’s relief and development agency. “It’s what Jesus would do with lepers—it’s going out and healing those who need it. To deny that to anyone is just wrong in the eyes of God.”

The Hamilton march was one of many such events taking place in 20 cities across Canada organized by the Canadian Doctors for Refugee Care to call on the federal government to rescind its cuts to the Interim Federal Health Program (IFH).

The IFH, which, according to the Citizenship and Immigration Canada website, provides “limited, temporary, taxpayer-funded coverage of health-care benefits” to resettled refugees and refugee claimants, went through a series of changes in 2012 that involved cuts to the levels of health care available to different refugee groups, and created different tiers of care for different types of refugees.

The Federal Court ruled in 2014 that these cuts were “cruel and unusual,” insofar as they endanger the lives and jeopardize the health of vulnerable persons such as children, and ordered that the cuts be repealed. The Government of Canada is appealing the decision.

Dr. Andrea Hunter, a pediatrician involved in planning the event, said that she has had first-hand experience of the negative impact that the cuts are having on asylum-seekers.

“I see a number of children who are denied care essentially, or health-care coverage, because of their status in Canada as refugee claimants, and due to the confusion amongst health-care providers about the cuts,” she said. “We’re essentially trying to send a message to the Conservative government that refugees need health care; it’s cost-effective to provide them with preventative health care when they arrive.”

Before the cuts were made, all refugee claimants had access to medical care, diagnostic services, laboratory testing, medications, emergency dental care and vision care similar to the care available to Canadian citizens through provincial health and social assistance plans. Now, only government-sponsored refugees have this kind of coverage. Privately sponsored refugees rely on a mix of provincial health care and health care provided through the IFH, while refugee claimants—those who arrive in Canada independently—are allowed to receive health care only through the IFH, which will not cover medication, vision care or dental care. In the case of refugees who arrive from one of the 35 countries deemed by the government to be “safe” (a list that includes states such as Hungary, Cyprus and Mexico), coverage is provided only when withholding it poses a risk to public health.

Dr. Ali Mulla, himself the descendent of refugees from Uganda, says the system’s complexity is partially to blame for its failure to provide coverage to some individuals.

“Patients, many times, were just rejected from practitioner offices—not even when they don’t have appropriate coverage, but just because of the complications associated with it,” he said. “There are practitioners who are just completely confused with what’s going on because it keeps changing over and over again.”

Like Archbell, the Rev. Bill Mous, director of justice, community, and global ministries for the diocese of Niagara, sees this issue as being deeply tied to Christian concerns. “This is a moral issue,” he said in a pre-march address to the protesters from the steps of the federal building. “It’s a moral issue because we know the cuts to refugee health care are causing suffering and harm—to mothers and children, to fathers and grandparents.”

While Mous noted that the diocese was planning to sponsor “as many as 50 refugees” to celebrate its 140th anniversary this year, he also stressed that “the need for resettlement grows more and more each day” and called on the government to “stop the legal appeals and reverse these unjust cuts to refugee health care.”

Chris Alexander, Canada’s minister of Citizenship and Immigration, has argued that the cuts are necessary to keep “bogus” refugees from taking advantage of the Canadian health-care system, and that the changes instituted will protect the rights of “genuine” refugees. He has also stressed how much money the cuts will save.

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Anglican Journal News, June 19, 2015

Anglicans, Canadians respond to #22days campaign ‘with passion’

Posted on: June 13th, 2015 by CEP Administrator No Comments
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The diocese of Qu’Apelle’s St. Paul’s Anglican Cathedral, in Regina, is taking part in the #22days campaign. Photo: Marites N. Sison


The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) may have wound down at its closing ceremony on June 3, but its momentum continues in the Anglican Church of Canada’s #22days website campaign, a nationwide initiative of remembering and commitment.

This online project has also set church bells ringing across Canada—in tiny chapels and large cathedrals alike—in honour of the many hundreds of Aboriginal girls and women murdered or gone missing since 1980.

Launched officially on May 31, the project’s website by June 10 had racked up more than 22,000 hits. “At times, the website has been busier overall than our main website, which is really exciting,” says Brian Bukowski, the church’s web manager. “It’s been very positive. People are signing up to get the daily emails.”

Conceived by cathedral deans in dioceses where the TRC held its seven national events from 2010 to 2014, #22days is a continuum of telling and listening that takes Anglicans from the May 31 start of the TRC’s closing event in Ottawa to National Aboriginal Day on June 21. It’s also an opportunity for Canadians to commit and recommit to the healing and reconciliation process.

Its website keeps alive one of the commission’s core purposes: telling the poignant stories of residential school survivors and their families, still rebounding from the traumatic abuse and intergenerational fallout of that regrettable chapter in Canadian history. The #22days site features powerful footage from the archives of Anglican Video documenting survivors’ experiences in their own words.

And the project keeps alive the TRC’s call to action to promote healing among Aboriginal Canadians and reconciliation between them and their non-Aboriginal counterparts.

Resounding chords have been struck across the country. “We had an email from the rector of a small parish in Cape Breton, [N.S.] where most of the parishioners are probably not even on the Internet, but they heard about the project and made a commitment to read and consider the results from the TRC,” Bukowski says.

The campaign’s enlistment of church bells as a reminder of the disappearances of Aboriginal women is resonating, literally, everywhere. “The bells are ringing across Canada, and not just in big cathedrals in large cities with substantial Aboriginal populations,” says Bukowski.

Adds Lisa Barry, Anglican Video senior producer, “We’ve had a lot of secular press coverage of the bell ringing and the #22days online project. I feel the TRC has triggered in this country a renewed interest—and for some, a brand-new interest—in residential schools and their legacy. I think the project is timely.”

Barry believes that down the line the Anglican church could be helpful in getting material on the residential schools into the curriculum of public schools. They are, after all, part of every Canadian’s national history. “We are complicit in the legacy of the schools, the dysfunctional families, the high suicide rates,” she says.

Another witness to the outpouring from all parts of the country is the Rev. Jesse Dymond, the church’s online community and resources co-ordinator. “Anglicans have responded to the #22days campaign with passion, using social media not only to share personal and parish commitments to reconciliation, but to draw others into the discussion,” he says “In the past 10 days, I’ve seen Anglicans ringing bells, encouraging one another, sharing ideas around worship and advocacy and making a public cry for justice.

He adds that this appeal has been heard by the CBC, CTV Huffington Post, local news outlets and even the satirical online media. “There has been so much social media activity that, at  times, it’s been hard to keep up,” Dymond says. “And that’s wonderful: the church is proclaiming the gospel as it calls itself and our country to reconciliation.”

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Anglican Journal News, June 12, 2015

Jesus the Homeless inspires, divides

Posted on: June 13th, 2015 by CEP Administrator No Comments
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Dean Dermont Dunne, Church of England Archbishop Michael Jackson, sculptor Tim Schmalz and Roman Catholic Archbishop Diarmuid Martin at the blessing and unveiling of the Homeless Jesus sculpture. Photo: Church of Ireland


Canadian sculptor Timothy Schmalz’s life-sized bronze statue, Jesus the Homeless, did not have the most auspicious of beginnings. The oft-controversial piece, which depicts Jesus as an all-but-anonymous homeless person curled beneath a blanket on a park bench, spent close to a year stranded in Schmalz’s studio after it was first cast. Two Catholic cathedrals, St. Michael’s in Toronto and St. Patrick’s in New York City, passed on the sculpture after initial displays of interest, and Jesus the Homeless was left, in what Schmalz has described as a somewhat telling irony, without a home.

But much has transpired in the years since. In early 2013, the original sculpture was accepted and installed by Regis College, a Jesuit theological college located in Toronto’s downtown core. An audience with Pope Francis, in which the pontiff prayed over and blessed a model of Schmalz’s work, followed later that same year, and 2014 saw Jesus the Homeless placed in cities across the United States such as Davidson, N.C., Phoenix, Ariz., and Chicago, Ill.

The latest installation, and the first outside of North America, took place in May this year, in the grounds of Christ Church Cathedral in Dublin, Ireland. The ceremony surrounding the unveiling served as a particular source of pride for Schmalz, who travelled to Ireland to watch it take place, and for a very specific reason. “The sculpture’s doing what I never expected it to do,” he said in an interview. “It’s bringing together people from different denominations. At Christ Church Cathedral…we had the Catholic archbishop [Diarmuid Martin] of Dublin, as well as [Church of Ireland] archbishop [of Dublin, Michael Jackson] do a dual blessing on the sculpture, using the same holy water bowl.”

Schmalz is equally proud that Jesus the Homeless also appears to appeal to those who do not profess a faith in any particular religion. “I love the fact that people who aren’t really religious are gravitating toward it,” he said. “And I do believe that one of the reasons why that is, is that this sculpture is talking about the pure essence of some of the greatest gifts that Christianity has given us…that life is sacred. It’s hard not to like, whatever faith you are, the idea of Jesus saying that whenever you’ve helped the least of my brothers, you’re helping me.” Schmalz specifically points to Jesus the Homeless statues in Buffalo, N.Y., and Charleston, W.Va., that have become unofficial drop-off points for food and blankets, which are then donated to homeless shelters by the churches that own the statues.

Despite the success of the last two years, however, the controversy that has dogged the sculpture from the outset—controversy that included a Davidson, N.C. resident, mistaking it for a real homeless person, calling the police on the statue shortly after it debuted at St. Alban’s Episcopal Church—has persisted in some arenas. One parishioner at a Cincinnati, Ohio, church, citing his belief that the statue was an insulting portrayal of Jesus, left the congregation after the church’s decision to install Jesus the Homeless. Similar divides surrounding the piece have cropped up in other parishes. Schmalz expressed particular disappointment at the recent collapse of a commitment to display Jesus the Homeless at the Oratory of the Louvre in Paris. The deal soured when the oratory’s administration decided that it would be hypocritical to display a statue of Jesus as a homeless person while simultaneously trying to discourage the presence of actual homeless people on the property.

For his part, Schmalz maintains that while part of his aim is to elicit a genuine, emotional response through his work, he is not in the habit of creating pieces for the purpose of empty shocks. “It’s a visual translation of Matthew 25,” he said, “and you hope that with a little bit of explanation, [people] would come to the understanding that I’m not trying to insult anyone, and I’m only being as shocking as the gospels are shocking.”

In any case, whatever lingering resentment might be attached to the statue in some corners does not appear to have halted its forward momentum. Schmalz is currently in talks to bring Jesus the Homeless to the Methodist Central Hall in London, England, along with churches in Ottawa, Hamilton and Detroit, among others.

When asked what it meant to him to see the statue spread across the world, Schmalz said that the message of Matthew 25 remained the most important aspect, and quoted a favourite saying of his from St. Francis: “Preach everywhere you go, and if necessary even use words.”

Schmalz added: “[The statue] is very similar to a preacher who’s silent, but still being heard all the way around the world.”

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Anglican Journal News, June 12, 2015

TRC report will advance Indigenous self-determination in church, says bishop

Posted on: June 8th, 2015 by CEP Administrator No Comments
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(L to R) Indigenous Spiritual Ministry of Mishamikoweesh Bishop Lydia Mamakwa, National Indigenous Anglican Bishop Mark MacDonal, and ACIP members Sheba McKay and Ruby Sandy Robinson. Photo: Marites N. Sison


National Indigenous Anglican Bishop Mark MacDonald said he is hopeful that the final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) outlining concrete actions that would respect the sovereignty and integrity of Canada’s Indigenous peoples would help Indigenous Anglicans’ own struggle for self-determination within the Anglican Church of Canada.

What resonated with him the most in the report, said MacDonald in an interview, was its call for “a full and complete acceptance of the values, protocols and ideals of Indigenous people and their equal weight in governance, in life, in culture. It adds a lot of weight to what we’re trying to do.”

Indigenous Anglicans believe that “the Gospel, the living word of God, wants to be living and real in Indigenous life,” said MacDonald. “You can’t do that if you have no respect for Indigenous life.

“What we have looked for, hoped for and longed for in the church and in the larger society is something that this report asked,” he added. “What the TRC report describes so well is that Indigenous concerns are woven into the fabric of Canadian life so completely that you cannot have justice unless you have indigenous justice, and indigenous justice means justice for all.”

Nonetheless, MacDonald acknowledged that it is a strong declaration that “will be challenging to Canada, as we have already seen.” He added that it is one that will also be challenging to the church “because people are so habituated into thinking that Indigenous values, ideals, values and practices are inferior, that they have no place in governance, life and in the life of the church.”

MacDonald said the TRC has not only allowed the truth of what happened at the Indian residential schools to be told “in a full and comprehensive way,” it has also provided a roadmap towards reconciliation and “towards a future of real partnership and life” between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians.

These, according to National Indigenous Anglican Bishop Mark MacDonald, were the two most important achievements of the TRC, which ended its six-year inquiry on June 2 by releasing a 382-page report that concluded the residential school system amounted to “cultural genocide.” The TRC also issued 94 recommendations that included a call for a new royal proclamation and covenant of reconciliation that would reaffirm the nation-to-nation relationship between Aboriginal peoples and the Crown, as well as concrete actions for addressing issues such as Aboriginal child welfare, education, language and culture, spiritual traditions, missing and murdered Aboriginal women, justice, health and missing residential school children.

“The report, for me, was an emotional moment,” said MacDonald. “So many things came together at that time that we’ve been hoping for, working for, believing in, struggling.”

The presence of church leaders at the closing event of the TRC, held May 31 to June 2 in Ottawa, as well as their joint response to the report, have given him hope, said MacDonald.

“I think the churches’ presence here and commitment really speaks for itself. I’m more hopeful than I have been in the past that the church is committed to follow through, that it understands that the goodness and the joy of this is the follow through,” he said. “Even though the follow through will be very, very difficult, I think a lot of our leaders are beginning to understand that this is good, not just for Indigenous people but for every Canadian. “

Bishop Lydia Mamakwa of the Indigenous Spiritual Ministry of Mishamikoweesh said she also felt “very positive” and “very hopeful” about the churches’ response to the report. “I know that the church has always tried to stand by us and I appreciate that.”

In their response, the churches that operated the federally funded residential schools — Anglican, United, Presbyterian and Roman Catholic — said the report will offer direction to their “continuing commitment to reconciliation.”

“We are committed to respect Indigenous spiritual traditions in their own right,” they said in a statement. “As individual churches and in shared interfaith and ecumenical initiatives…we will continue to foster learning about and awareness of the reality and legacy of the residential schools, the negative impact of such past teachings as the Doctrine of Discovery, and the new ways forward found in places, such as the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.”

Churches also promised to continue funding “community-controlled initiatives in healing, language and cultural revitalization, education and relationship-building, and self-determination.”

Mamakwa expressed hope that the TRC’s recommendations and the churches’ promises “will take shape, that they will be implemented.”

For Mamakwa, a key element in the recommendations was education, specifically, educating all Canadians not just about what happened at the residential schools, but about Aboriginal history. “I think that would create change in attitudes,” she said. While “some good work was done” by the TRC, she said, its work was not widely known in her own community. “It has just hit the tip of the iceberg. There’s more work to be done,” she said.

What she would like the church to concentrate on the revival of language and culture, said Mamakwa. “The church can really acknowledge and validate our culture through our language.” She lamented that a lot of the church resources in her community are often in English.

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Anglican Journal News, June 08, 2015

Ceremonial Day and Closing: ‘This ending is just the beginning’

Posted on: June 5th, 2015 by CEP Administrator No Comments
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Fred with kid

Remembering the past while offering hope for the future, the final day of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) closing ceremonies on Wednesday, June 3 made it clear that the journey towards reconciliation in Canada has just begun.

The ceremonial end of the four-day TRC national event took place in the Governor General’s residence at Rideau Hall. Indian residential school survivors and their family members assembled alongside representatives of the parties to the residential schools settlement agreement including Archbishop Fred Hiltz, Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, leaders of other churches, and Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

As noted by Justice Murray Sinclair, TRC commissioner and chair, Rideau Hall symbolized the historic relationship and legal obligations between the Crown and all Indigenous peoples of Canada.

Following an opening prayer by Elder Evelyn Commanda-Dewache, a residential school survivor, Governor General David Johnston offered remarks that highlighted the inportance of the TRC.

“A moment like this arises very rarely in a country’s history,” Johnston said. “This is a moment for national reflection and introspection. This is a moment to reflect on our history, our relationships and our responsibilities towards each other, to think about the depth of our commitment to tolerance, respect and inclusiveness, and whether we can do better in Canada.”

Answering the last question in the affirmative, he noted the generations of First Nations, Métis and Inuit people who suffered as a result of the residential schools.

“For many,” Johnston added, “that pain continues”—a point reinforced by the tearful reactions to a video detailing the experiences of survivors.

Reinforcing the connection between residential schools and the social ills disproportionately faced by Indigenous communities today, Justice Sinclair emphasized that “this history is about so much more than just schools.”

In the course of the TRC hearings, he said, survivors “told us about their healing journeys, often barely begun; their determination to reclaim identity, to rekindle kinship bonds, to relearn endangered languages and land-based skills, and to recommit to traditional spiritual healings and practices.”

The Governor General urged non-Indigenous Canadians to learn more about the cultures of the country’s Aboriginal peoples.

At the end of the ceremony, children led those in attendance outside to witness the planting of a heart garden, which consisted of laminated hearts on stakes with messages honouring the children who attended Indian residential schools.

“This sequence of events,” Johnston said, “reminds us that while the survivors of residential schools brought us to this point, it is their children, along all children in this country, who will lead us in the future towards a new kind of Canada.”

Across the city, a final call to gather outside Ottawa City Hall featured a succession of musical performers—including the legendary singer-songwriter Buffy Sainte-Marie, who is of Cree background and called the end of the TRC closing ceremonies “a day of sadness, but a day of rejoicing” where “ignorance is lifted.”

Where the closing ceremony had seen many tears, the final call to gather was characterized by a sea of smiling faces, with the crowd joining hands together in a massive round dance. The joy of the occasion marked a welcome relief from the heavy emotional toll of the previous days.

Reflecting upon the final day, Public Witness for Social and Ecological Justice Director Henriette Thompson, who co-ordinated Anglican participation in the TRC in the years leading up to the event, called it “a very historic occasion.”

“I think it marked a turning [point] that was felt by people who were involved in the TRC closing ceremonies over the past few days, that there was…something that had changed in…this country’s soul … There was a sense of being together and realizing that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission work had really opened our eyes to things that we had never acknowledged before.”

Noting her plans to improve her own knowledge of the Cree language, Thomson praised the residential school survivors for their reminder that the TRC represented “a matter of the heart,” one that would inform the actions of the Anglican Church moving forward.

“This is about heart work,” she said. “And the heart work is something I think that our church is going to get into more deeply.”

The Anglican Church of Canada will continue to honour the work of the TRC with its #22Days project, which runs until National Aboriginal Day on June 21.

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Anglican Church of Canada, News from General Synod, June 04, 2015

As TRC ends, Johnston asks Canadians: ‘Where do we go from here?’

Posted on: June 5th, 2015 by CEP Administrator No Comments
News

About 300 people gathered at Rideau Hall, the official home and workplace of the governor general, for the ceremony marking the end of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s work.  Photo: Art Babych


 Ottawa
In a solemn ceremony marking the conclusion of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), Governor General David Johnston urged Canadians to seize a historic opportunity “to look back, and to look forward together” and to begin “a new chapter in the story of Canada and its diverse peoples.” Created in 2008 to look into the truth about the Indian residential schools, the TRC ended its work with a final report on June 2, describing the residential schools as “cultural genocide” and offering 94 recommendations to redress its harmful legacy and to advance the process of reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians.

“A moment like this arises very rarely in a country’s history. This is a moment for national reflection and introspection,” said Johnston, who began his speech by acknowledging that the ceremony was taking place in the traditional territory of the Algonquin nation.

“This is a moment to reflect upon our history, our relationships and our responsibilities towards each other. To think about the depth of our commitment to tolerance, respect and inclusiveness and whether we can do better. We can and we must,” he said.

Present at the gathering were Prime Minister Stephen Harper, vice-regal consort Sharon Johnston, TRC commissioners and their families, residential school survivors, church leaders and political leaders including the Liberal Party’s Justin Trudeau and the Green Party’s Elizabeth May.  Harper, whose attendance had not been previously announced, did not speak during the event.

Johnston urged Canadians to think about generations of First Nations, Métis and Inuit people—children, mothers, fathers, families, and elders past and present—who have borne the trauma of the schools, noting that “for many that pain continues.”

At the same time, he said, each and every Canadian must also ask themselves: “Where do we go from here?” After all, he said, “We’re all in this together.”

Education, he said, “offers us the best chance of finding our way out of this situation. Our hope lies in learning, and an unwavering commitment to tolerance, respect and inclusiveness in our relationships.”

Johnston said that, as an educator, he was “deeply disturbed by the residential school system’s betrayal of the most fundamental principles of learning.”

Education, he said, “must never be about the narrow exclusion of cultures or worldviews. Rather, learning must be about growth and inclusiveness, discovery of the self, of others, and of the world around us. The approach must be one of diversity and respect.”

The ceremony held in the powder-blue-walled ballroom where the governor general holds state dinners and investiture ceremonies for recipients of the Order of Canada—was steeped in symbolism.

Johnston, Harper and other dignitaries entered the room to the beating of a drum by 12-year-old Theland Kicknoswaya, a Potawatami/Cree Nation member of Walpole Island in southern Ontario.

Behind the podium where Johnston spoke was a Diamond Jubilee portrait of Queen Elizabeth II and in front, the bentwood box carved by Coast Salish artist Luke Marston, which was commissioned by the TRC as a “lasting tribute” to all residential school survivors.

Two chairs were left empty in the front row, honouring the children who died at the residential schools or who escaped but never made it back home.

Evelyn Commanda Dewache, an Algonquin elder and former residential school student, held an eagle feather as she led a smudging ceremony and prayer.  Representatives of church parties to the agreement—including Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada—joined residential school survivor Barney Williams and Sarah Fontaine-Sinclair, granddaughter of TRC chair Justice Murray Sinclair, in a prayer of hope for a new beginning for Canada.


 Evelyn Commanda Dewache, an Algonquin elder and former residential school student, greets Archbishop Fred Hiltz as Roman Catholic Archbishop Gerard Pettipas looks on. Photo: Art Babych


Attended by about 300 people who sat facing each other in a semi-circle, the ceremony turned emotional at times. A survivor stifled a sob as a video of powerful testimonies made by former students was played, while others, including non-Indigenous people, silently wiped away tears.

Johnston said that while the commission led Canada through “a difficult and painful learning process” about the residential schools, it was necessary because “far too many Canadians” are unaware about it and its harmful legacy.  “In fact, many of us do not know enough about Aboriginal people and cultures in general, and one of the important lessons of this process is that we must learn more about the first peoples of this land,” he said. “We must better understand each other and appreciate our differences, as well as all that we share in common.”

Johnston said it was fitting that the survivors led everyone into the room for the ceremony.  “They’re the ones who have led us to this important moment in our history.  They’ve led us here through their resilience, their courage and their collective voice, and I thank them for that.”

Symbolizing hope for the future, Johnston said the ceremony would end with children leading everyone out of the room. “This sequence of events reminds us that, while the survivors of residential schools brought us to this point, it is their children—along with all children in this country—who will lead us into the future…into a new kind of Canada.”

Sinclair and the two other commissioners—Marie Wilson and Chief Wilton Littlechild—also gave brief speeches and offered articles of remembrance in the bentwood box, which had traveled with the TRC at its national events, regional gatherings and community meetings.

“Rideau Hall is home to the governor general, but this space belongs to all of us,” said Sinclair, noting that the TRC was launched here six years ago because of this and the historical relationship between the Crown and First Nations people.

Littlechild placed a beaded basket in the bentwood box containing the ashes of tear-soaked tissues collected at all TRC events and a hockey puck, symbolizing the way sports became the salvation for students like him at residential schools. The “ashes of tears” will serve as a reminder that “we have wept together as a country and we will heal,” he said.

Wilson asked every woman in the room to stand and bear witness as she placed a traditional rattle that had been given to her by an Aboriginal elder, symbolizing the spirits of the children who had not returned from residential schools.

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Anglican Journal News, June o4, 2015

Residential schools a form of ‘cultural genocide,’ says TRC report

Posted on: June 3rd, 2015 by CEP Administrator No Comments
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“We are all Treaty people who share responsibility for taking action on reconciliation,” TRC Commissioners Chief Wilton Littlechild, Marie Wilson and Justice Murray Sinclair say  in their final report. Photo: Marites N. Sison


Ottawa
Addressing what it described as a “cultural genocide” inflicted for over a century on Canada’s Aboriginal peoples, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) on June 2 issued 94 wide-ranging “Calls to Action,” including the creation of a National Council for Reconciliation, a Royal Proclamation and Covenant on Reconciliation and an apology from the Pope for the Roman Catholic Church’s role in residential schools.

The Calls to Action—with specific directives to Parliament, the federal and provincial government, churches, faith groups and all Canadians—would “redress the legacy of residential schools and advance the process of Canadian reconciliation,” said the TRC in its exhaustive, 382-page final report.

Reconciliation is about “establishing and maintaining a mutually respectful relationship”  between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples in Canada, but “we are not there yet,” said the report released by TRC Commissioners Justice Murray Sinclair, Marie Wilson and Chief Wilton Littlechild. “By establishing a new and respectful relationship, we restore what must be restored, repair what must be repaired, and return what must be returned.”

During its six-year term, the TRC gathered voluminous residential school documents, received over 6,750 statements (from  former students, their families, Aboriginal communities and former school staff), held seven national events and conducted 238 days of local hearings in 77 communities across Canada. The goal: to document the truth about what happened in the residential schools, which operated from the 1860s to the 1990s, and to educate Canadians about what has been dubbed “Canada’s shame.”

For churches that operated the federally funded schools (Anglican, United, Presbyterian and Roman Catholic), the TRC recommended education strategies “to ensure that their respective congregations learn about their church’s role in colonization, the history and legacy of residential schools, and why apologies to former residential school students, their families and their communities were necessary.”

The TRC also called on church signatories to the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement as well as other faith groups to “formally recognize Indigenous spirituality as a valid form of worship that is equal to their own” in order to address the “spiritual violence” committed in the schools, the effects of which, reverberate to this day in Aboriginal communities.

 

Churches must also establish permanent funding for Aboriginal “community-controlled”  healing and reconciliation projects, education and relationship-building projects and regional dialogues for Indigenous spiritual leaders and youth to discuss Indigenous spirituality, self-determination and reconciliation, said the TRC.

About 150,000 First Nations, Inuit and Métis children were removed from their homes and sent to residential schools as part of the government’s policy of cultural genocide, said the TRC. “The Canadian government pursued this policy of cultural genocide because it wished to divest itself of its legal and financial obligations to Aboriginal people and gain control over their land and resources,” it noted. “If every Aboriginal person had been ‘absorbed into the body politic,’ there would be no reserves, no Treaties and no Aboriginal rights.”

Cultural genocide, explained the TRC, involves the destruction of political and social institutions of a group, the seizure of their land, the forcible transfer of populations and restriction of their movements, the banning of their language and spiritual practices, the persecution of spiritual leaders and the disruption of families to prevent the transfer of its cultural values and identity to succeeding generations. “In its dealings with Aboriginal people, Canada did all these things,” said the TRC.

Saying that reconciliation requires “an awareness of the past, acknowledgment of the harm that has been inflicted, atonement for the causes and action to change behaviour,” the TRC also called for action on issues around Aboriginal child welfare, education, language and culture, health, justice, equity for Aboriginal people in the legal system, professional development and training for public servants, missing children and burial information, among others.

Canada lost an opportunity for reconciliation in 1996, when the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples’ call for Canadians to begin a national process of reconciliation and for the government to change its relationship with Aboriginal peoples was ignored, said the TRC.

It urged the Harper government and all Canadians to seize the opportunity  for “a rare second chance” at reconciliation, noting that “at stake is Canada’s place as a prosperous, just and inclusive democracy” in the global world.

Although some progress has been made, “significant barriers” to reconciliation remain, said the TRC. “The relationship between the federal government and Aboriginal peoples is deteriorating. Instead of moving towards reconciliation, there have been divisive conflicts over Aboriginal education, child welfare and justice.” It cited issues ranging from the call by Aboriginal groups for a national inquiry on missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls to the impact of economic development of lands and resources on Treaties and Aboriginal title and rights.

Royal Proclamation and  Covenant of Reconciliation

On behalf of all Canadians, the federal government must jointly develop with Aboriginal peoples a Royal Proclamation of Reconciliation to be issued by the Crown, said the TRC. “The proclamation would build on the Royal Proclamation of 1763 and the Treaty of Niagara of 1764, and reaffirm the nation-to-nation relationship between Aboriginal peoples and the Crown.”

This proclamation, it added, should repudiate “concepts used to justify European sovereignty over Indigenous lands and peoples,” including the Doctrine of Discovery, a principle of charters and acts developed by colonizing Western societies 500 years ago to expropriate Indigenous lands and territories.

All parties to the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement—the federal government, churches (including the Anglican Church of Canada), survivors and the Assembly of First Nations—must also develop and sign a Covenant of Reconciliation, recommended the TRC.

This covenant must reaffirm their commitment to reconciliation, repudiate the Doctrine of Discovery and support the renewal or establishment of Treaty relationships “based on principles of mutual recognition, mutual respect and shared responsibility for maintaining those relationships in the future.” (The report noted that some churches, including the Anglican Church of Canada, have already repudiated the Doctrine of Discovery.)

 

Recognize Indigenous spirituality

Reconnecting with their traditional Indigenous spiritual teachings—banned during their time at the schools—has been essential to the healing and reclaiming of identity of some survivors and their families, said the TRC.

However, this hasn’t been possible for many, said the TRC. Spiritual fear, confusion and conflict exist in many Aboriginal communities today as “direct consequences of the violence with which traditional beliefs were stripped away from Indigenous peoples” during the residential schools era, it noted. “Many survivors continue to live in spiritual fear of their own traditions. Such fear is a direct result of the religious beliefs imposed on them by those who ran the residential schools.”

Survivors who have attempted to reclaim spiritual teachings have also been criticized, and sometimes ostracized, by family members who are Christian and by their church, it added. “Survivors and their relatives reported that these tensions led to family breakdown—such is the depth of this spiritual conflict,” said the report. “…This turmoil gives particular urgency to understanding the role of churches in effecting reconciliation with Indigenous peoples.”

The TRC nonetheless recognized efforts made by churches, including the Anglican church, which has “developed a vision for a self-governing Indigenous church to coexist within the broader institutional structure of the church,” and appointed Mark MacDonald as its first National Indigenous Bishop.

The TRC also called on leaders of church parties to the agreement and all other faiths to collaborate with Indigenous spiritual leaders, survivors, schools of theology, seminaries and other religious training centres in developing a curriculum for all student clergy, clergy and staff who work in Aboriginal communities that respects Indigenous spirituality. Such a curriculum must teach the history and legacy of residential schools and the roles of the churches, the history and legacy of religious conflict in Aboriginal families and communities, “and the responsibility that churches have to mitigate such conflicts and prevent spiritual violence,” said the TRC.

“That Christians in Canada, in the name of their religion, inflicted serious harms on Aboriginal children, their families and communities was in fundamental contradiction to what they purported to be their core beliefs,” said the TRC. “For the churches to avoid repeating their failures of the past, understanding how and why they perverted Christian doctrine to justify their actions is a critical lesson to be learned from the residential school experience.”

Put words into actions

In asking the Pope to issue an apology “ for the Roman Catholic Church’s role in the spiritual, cultural, emotional, physical and sexual abuse of First Nations, Inuit and Métis children in Catholic-run residential schools,” the TRC noted that unlike the three Protestant denominations, the Roman Catholic Church in Canada does not have a single spokesperson with authority to represent its dioceses and religious orders. “The result has been a patchwork of apologies or statements of regret that few survivors or church members may even know exists.” It has been “disappointing” to survivors that the Pope has “not yet made a clear and empathic public apology in Canada” for residential schools abuses, said the TRC.

But apologies given by the government and churches can only go so far, the TRC said, noting that while they may be graciously received, they are “understandably viewed with skepticism” by survivors and their families. “When trust has been so badly broken, it can be restored only over time as survivors observe how the churches interact with them in daily life,” said the TRC. “…Apologies mark only a beginning point on pathways of reconciliation; the proof of their authenticity lies in putting words into action.”

National Council for Reconciliation

The Parliament of Canada must, in consultation and collaboration with Aboriginal peoples, establish a National Council for Reconciliation that will monitor, evaluate and report annually on  “post-apology progress on reconciliation to ensure that government accountability for reconciling the relationship between Aboriginal peoples and the Crown is maintained in the coming years,” said the TRC. The federal government must provide multi-year funding for this independent, national oversight body, it added.

The TRC also reiterated a recommendation it made in its 2012 interim report for the federal, provincial, territorial and municipal governments to fully adopt and implement the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as the framework for reconciliation.

It also called on church parties to the agreement, and all other faith groups and interfaith social justice groups in Canada who have not already done so, to formally adopt and comply with the principles, norms and standards of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as framework for reconciliation.

On the matter of missing residential schools children, the TRC called on the federal government to allocate funds that will allow the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation to develop and maintain the National Residential School Student Register established by the TRC.

The federal government, churches, Aboriginal communities and former students must also work together to establish and maintain an online registry of residential school cemeteries, “including, where possible, plot maps showing the location of deceased residential school children,” it added.

They must also work together “to inform the families of children who died at residential schools of the child’s burial location, and to respond to families’ wishes for appropriate commemoration ceremonies and markers, and reburial in home communities where requested.”

The TRC report also called on the federal government to commit $10 million over seven years to help fund the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation, plus additional funds to assist communities in researching and producing histories of their own residential shock experiences and their involvement in truth, healing and reconciliation.

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Anglican Journal News, June 02, 2015